Interactive English: Reception

Reading and Listening

Critical Reading

on October 11, 2012

In order to comprehend and retain information, it is important to be active while reading or listening. In the next class we will practice a way of actively reading: critically reading. To practice a bit of critical thinking, please choose one of the quotes from below and in the comments please tell us what it means to you.

1. The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt   ~ Bertrand Russell

2. The propagandist’s purpose is to make one set of people forget that certain other sets of people are human.   ~ Aldous Huxley

3. Men become civilized, not in proportion to their willingness to believe, but in their readiness to doubt.   ~ H. L. Mencken

4. It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. ~ Aristotle

5. The important thing is not to stop questioning. ~ Albert Einstein

Also, as you read pages 10-19 of Paranoid Park, keep track of the characters and map and answer the following questions (make sure all information is in your journal):

1. What does he mean when he says, “This was a serious scene”?

2. What do you think he means by “other stuff” when he says, “They had beer and cigarettes and other stuff”?

3. What are “Streeters”? What are “gutter punks”?

4. What does Scratch like about skateboarding?

5. What does the narrator mean when he says, “it was pretty wild stuff”?

6. What does he mean when he says, “It served him right”?

7. What do you think will happen in the next 20 pages?

If you missed the last class, please pick up this week’s reading in the box in front of my office (#629).


7 responses to “Critical Reading

  1. Satomi Togari says:

    5. The important thing is not to stop questioning. ~ Albert Einstein

    This quote reminds me of Steve Jobs’s quote, “Stay hungry. Stay Foolish.” (this originally was from the “Whole Earth Catalog”). As Steve Jobs’s quote was directed to students at Stanford University, it must have a slightly different implication, I think these two quotes have something in common; the importance of curiosity.

    I think what Einstein means is that we need to maintain our curiosity, or in other words the interest towards the things around us. His own curiosity lead to great discoveries such as the general theory of relativity, and this quote implies that we can make discoveries of our own too if we never forget to stop questioning ourselves, “Why?”. It can be about anything, world peace, science, love, friendship, hatred, history, literature or botany. The opposite of curiosity could be defined as “indifference”, and indifference could mean apathy towards our surroundings and life itself, which would make the world a v.e.r.y boring place.

    Like the quote by the great Socrates, “I know nothing except the fact of my ignorance.”, we ought to accept the fact that we are oblivious to the world around us, and need to pursue an answer to things that grab our attention. We don’t necessary need the answer itself, it’s the process of embracing our ignorance and the effort we channel into finding the answer that counts.

    Right now my curiosity is directed at one thing; the end of my homework!!

  2. Wataru Okubo says:

    I was intrigued by 3. “Men become civilized, not in proportion to their willingness to believe, but in their readiness to doubt.” – H. L. Mencken
    It says that the more they are ready to doubt, the more they are civilized. It’s human nature that we tend to believe rather than doubt. The difference between to believe and to doubt is whether one is ready to accept a bad result. When we believe in something, we hope something good will happen and when we doubt something, it means we expect not only something beneficial will happen to us but also something bad or unpredictable will happen. So it’s easy to believe while it takes some discipline and courage to doubt because in many cases it means you’re against the majority or mainstream. And this quote says that is the necessary element to be civilized. I think the civilization can be paraphrased as the moral or development of society and because there has been people who doubted, this morally and technologically developed world exists!
    As I’m being full of doubt now, I’m not sure if this is what he actually meant and even if so I doubt it; the civilized people are by no means better than other people (or whatever they call it)!
    I also think a life without any doubt is the easiest and happiest life and therefore it is the smartest way of living!

    I liked to read such quotes years back and the lesson I learned was that too much information will kill the value(I read too much at once). And here’s the most striking and ironical one: “A witty saying proves nothing.” – Voltaire (b… but doesn’t it prove anything? at least it seems to try to do so. And it’s so ironical because he is quoted very often!)

    As the 2nd semester begins, I started to read articles and research papers in both Japanese and English in classes and I hope this critical reading skill helps me out because the writing style is too stiff. So much so that I started to wonder if they’re writing in order to tire me out or they’re in a competition “How many references can you cite?”

    Thank you about the DVD! I’m not sure if I should look forward to it because I know one movie sometimes ruins the original. Anyway I look forward to the book now!

  3. Takumi Nakanishi says:

    1. The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt ~ Bertrand Russell

    When I read this quote, various thoughts crossed my mind. For example, I remembered demonstrating people demanding that Japanese government abolish nuclear power plants in Japan. They are shouting, “Stop nuclear power plants!”, “Don’t forget Fukushima!” and the like. It’s not that I’m for promoting nuclear energy. I just wonder why they are so confident although they don’t have even specific plans.

    BTW, I’d live in the library in TUFS.

  4. Ayumi Sugaya says:

    I chose the second quote ; The propagandist’s purpose is to make one set of people forget that certain other sets of people are human. ~ Aldous Huxley

    This sentence throw a doubt on contradiction between religious ideal and religious conflicts.
    Propaganist is a person who try to spread thereligion to many people. Many religions hold up an ideal about peace and harmony, and they also put great importance on equality of human.
    However, many wars taken place because of the religious conflicts. Propagandists try to get many believers by saying that the religion make our mind and life peace and calm, but what they do is to make other religions remove. They usually don’t accept people who believe other religion.

    This is what I think this quote means. See you tomorrow!

  5. saya says:

    I choose 4.
    I am not sure if my interpretation is correct or not. I thought “to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it” means how open-minded he is. Aristotle tried to mention that education is something that makes you tolerant to any kinds of ideas even if you don’t agree with them.

    Based on this interpretation, I doubt what this sentence literally means. Is it really the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it? First, I guess that whether one can entertain a thought without accepting it depends on his innate personality or his circumstances. Education is not the only factor which decides one’s character and tolerance.
    For example, religion. I believe in no god. I can entertain Budhism, Christianity, Islam and whatever without accepting it. I think all of religions are unique and meaningful. People who have a strong belief in one god, however, probably cannot enjoy different perspectives in other religion. This example convinces us of the limit of education.
    And also, the definition of ‘the educated’ is so vague. Education is different from nation to nation.

    The mark of an educated mind is never to have a confidence. The mark of an educated mind is to be able to look one thing in several ways. The mark of an educated mind is not to be satisfied with the present situation. I came up with some alternatives. But I don’t have enough time to expain them all. Sorry, I am so sleepy now.

    I regret choosing 4. This one was too difficult for me to write about. While I was writing, I lost my way and I myself didn’t know what I wanted to say…

    Good night and see you today. I am looking forward to meeting assistant teachers from Leeds.

  6. Masato Kurosawa says:

    I think all of the above quotes essentially have the same critique of humanity. Probably, 5th quote from Einstein is the most fundamental and simple. Don’t believe anything completely, or you will not be a healthy human! Humans should have doubt for everything around themselves, because there is nothing true, nothing good, nothing false, nothing bad in this crazy world. A certain good thing in the past sometimes turns into a bad thing at this moment, although most people don’t recognize it. We must think about what is true or false at every moment if we can. However, we cannot live without believing in many things. Very paradoxical! It is hard to maintain a balance between believing and doubting! γνῶθι σεαυτόν


  7. Shogo Inoue says:

    I’ll answer question 5
    I think he wanted to say that the important thing in life is to wonder why things are the way they Re and why they things happen as it is. Off course believing something is important as human being and necessary, but not everything in life is true and it needs to be thought through about to see if it is true or not. In the modern days Internet is often used as the source for most of the students, but you need to analyze and compare with different information to see if the information is true.

    See you in class

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